WHERE THE LAME STAR LIMPS AN ENDLESS MILE
So, as those of you who realized my post yesterday was some kind of coded message have already cottoned to, I was freaking the fuck out. I had spent Tuesday and Wednesday preparing for my reading, and all three of the run-throughs I had done at home sucked in the worst possible ways. I was stumbling, I had no rhythm; my voice sounded horrible, the words sounded horrible. I had two selections from I Was Someone Dead and one from The Everlasting and an overwhelming desire to get the hell out of this commitment.
Now, you have to understand, I'm not that nervous about speaking in public. I was a Speech & Debate nerd in high school. I even went to the state finals once performing one of my own short stories. It wasn't a fear of the act, the act just wasn't working. It had been five years since my last public reading, and I had clearly lost the touch. I had originally Googled for any pictures of F. Scott Fitzgerald or Truman Capote's corpses, and I was going to post those, but thankfully I didn't find them (and if they are out there, please don't send them to me, I don't really want to see them). Then I flashed back to all the overwrought dramatic interpretations of "The Tell-Tale Heart" I had heard at all of those forensics competitions, and the words, "True, nervous" kept ringing in my head--and so I acted out online. It was all I could think to do. (I looked to the cat for advice, but her only complaint was that her character only got a passing mention in my Everlasting section, and surely there was a more suitable passage to be chosen.)
As the hour drew near, I tried to distract myself as best I could, just forget that it was coming. I showered, shaved, dressed all in black, got out the suede-topped Hush Puppies, put on the red-and-black tie. I was pumping the Pet Shop Boys. And yet, I was still jittery as hell. At that point, I was relying on faith that something would click, even if it was just getting lucky and no one would show up.
That wasn't going to happen. I think at James Lucas Jones' count, there was 25+ people when everything go underway. A lot of them were familiar faces, my co-workers and customers from the store, the Oni guys, Colleen Coover, Lara Michell, Brett Warnock from Top Shelf, my lovely 12 Reasons collaborator, author Bart King and his wife Lynn, Dead copyeditor. A few I didn't recognize, and others I hadn't seen in a while. I had an audience. I was going to have to deliver.
And I did. That thing happened, that thing I knew so well, where it does click, where whatever was blocking your way before just disappeared, and when it's showtime, you rise to the occasion.
Granted, I Was Someone Dead was a little slow going. I had never road tested this material, but it’s a little too dense and repetitious for a long reading. I had chosen the scene where Hieronymus Zoo returns to the beach for the first time after Nadya's arrival (starting on page 33), and I seemed to have to labor to get to the emergence of The Thing and the bad dream that followed. Once I did, it started to work better. I followed with an anecdote about how my father had read the book and had told me how a moment of lovemaking between Hieronymus Zoo's parents reminded him of a time with my mother, where in the middle of the act she had pointed out he had missed a spot when he painted the ceiling, and how this story ooged me out. It got a laugh, and lead into my explaining my various projects and introducing The Everlasting...
...and The Everlasting killed, if I do say so myself. I picked a humorous sequence at a party, where Lance is both caustic and also slightly romantic as he first becomes smitten with someone. A lot of the lines got laughs, and I could just feel a shift in the room. The material had taken over. It wasn't about me or what I was doing at that moment, but the work I had already done, a testament to the writing.
The signing afterwards went well. You could tell how much I was running on adrenaline, though, by the way my hand was shaking when I held the pen. Thankfully, it was pretty easy to calm down, and people bought some books and everyone had some kind words to say. I was on cloud nine-hundred and ninety-nine.
So, thanks Twenty-Third Avenue Books and to everyone who came down (and to everyone who listened to me mewl and cry in e-mail earlier). I had a blast. I hope I can do this more often. Even if I have to turn into a stuttering freak before every performance!
Current Soundtrack: Suede, Suede Japanese edition (because I'm that kind of guy)
Current Mood: bouncy
[to leave comments, click on the time-stamp below, then scroll down on the new page] – All text (c) 2005 Jamie S. Rich